Top Pool

Introduction

The Top Pool is the upper limit of Llangollen AA upper beat and it is accessed by walking up river from the Fridge Pool, though the wooded area. The walk though the wood can be difficult, especially when trees have fallen, so take extra care. That said, the fishing there is generally worth the effort because not many anglers venture that far up river. I find it fishes well with the fly from a river level of 0.50m (summer) to 0.70m (Corwen gauge). Above 0.7m, I find wading becomes very difficult and you are restricted to fishing from the bank, which is not easy because of the trees and bushes close behind you. Depending on the time of year and river conditions, it is possible to catch grayling, trout, sea trout and salmon, which adds to its attraction and the effort in walking up through the wood.

Trout and Grayling

Over the years, I have had some very good catches of grayling and trout here; especially between Feb to May and July to November. It fishes best for trout and grayling at levels up to 0.65m (Corwen); at higher levels fly fishing becomes very difficult from this bank because of the steep wooded area behind you. To get the best results from the Top Pool I divide it into three section, i.e. approach it as three pools in one! The following sketch shows you where I normally find the fish in each of the section.

Head – Riffle & Drop-off zones

From the head of this pool, down through the drop-off zone, to the large tree on the far bank is generally the most productive part of the pool; especially when the river level is 0.55m or less (Corwen gauge).  Any of main fly fishing techniques will yield results in this section of the pool; I tend to have most success using either Czech nymphs or wet flies.

Clear Water

Usually, I begin with a team of wet flies or spiders when the river is running clear and fish can be seen taking flies in the surface. I start fishing at point A, about 15ft from the bank, and slowly work my way down river. My general approach is to cast the flies upstream at a 45o angle and let them drift down through the current, mending the line upstream regularly so they don’t swing round too fast in the current. Quite often the takes come almost immediately after the upstream mend.

I normally fish down river to point B, if this doesn’t produce any results then I return to the riffle and go down through the run searching the bottom with a team of Czech nymphs. Nymphs that work best tend to be small (size 16 – 20) drab coloured patterns teamed with a heavy nymph, which is there to get them down to the river bed quickly.

If fish are taking flies in the surface then quite often it is worth trying the dry fly, starting at point B and slowly working my way upstream to the head of the pool.  I usually find that the double dry technique often works well for grayling; i.e. a large, sight dry fly (size 12 or 10) coupled with a small point pattern (size 16 to 20).

A section of flies that general work well under the aforementioned conditions:

Left to Right: March Brown Spider, Iron Blue nymph, Black Hopper
Left to Right: 4mm TB Brown nymph, 3mm TB Pheasant Tail nymph, 1.5mm TB brown nymph
Left - size 18 Griffith Gnat; Right - size 12 Cream tag, Elk Hair Caddis
2.5lb Brown Trout caught on a Black Hopper in June 2014

Coloured water

When the river is carrying some colour then I find it is best to start with a team of colourful Czech nymphs. Under these conditions, search the river bed in a zig-zag pattern from point A to point B; note, grayling can be caught even in the shallow water close to the bank. If you see flies hatching and your catch rate falls with the Czech nymphs, then a switch to wet flies or dry flies can often yield good results.

A section of Czech nymphs that work well when the river is coloured are shown below:

Left to Right: Fire-orange nymph (4mm TB & 2x 3mm orange TB), PTN (gold TB jig-back), 1.5mm TB brown nymph

Middle - Deep Run

I find the middle of the pool (point B to C) is best tackled with either a team of wet flies/spiders or the dry fly. May approach with the wet flies is to cast them squarely across the river and let them drift down river, drag-free, about 1 metre and make a small upstream mend and repeat every metre; usually takes come immediately after the mend.  When the flies reach the dangle I use a slow “figure of eight” retrieve prior to recasting – this can pick up the odd bonus fish. Make sure your rod tip is at least 2ft above the water because it provides a little slack line, which helps to hook the fish in the side of its mouth more securely.

If fish are rising then I will start at point C with the dry fly and work my way upstream slowly.  Don’t immediately cast to the rising fish if they are close to the far bank. Instead make a few cast to search the zone between you and the rising fish – often this will get you a few bonus fish to the one you have spotted rising.  The double dry is my preferred method, especially when it’s not clear what flies are being taken.

3lb grayling caught on a Pheasant Tail nymph in August 2013

Tail

From the bank it is difficult to fish the tail (point D to E) beyond the middle of the river because vegetation on the bank hinders your casting; unless you are good at distance roll-casting. However, I have caught quite a few fish in this zone, especially on summer evenings in the V of the tail. I have waded down through this section of the river when it is below 0.5m (Corwen gauge) to fish closer to the far bank. (Note – wading here is not for the faint-hearted because it is deep with many obstacles on the riverbed; therefore stick to fishing from the bank.)

Both the wet & dry fly techniques described in the aforementioned section work well in the tail. In the summer make sure you fish all the way through the V of the tail.

Tail of the Top pool – the centre run into the V is a good catch zone.

Technique Round-up:

Oct to April

Largely my approach depends on water/air temperature.

On cold days Czech nymphs work well, particularly when there is little or no fly activity on the surface.

When flies are observed coming off the water dry fishing can yield good results.

However, I find wet flies, spiders and nymphs fished close to the usually out fish dries.

May to Sept

My approach is governed by the time of day and cloud cover.

Early morning wet flies, spiders & nymphing techniques work well followed by dry flies.

On bright sunny days, by mid-day onwards focus on searching the bottom of well oxygenated, shady runs with Czech nymphs.

In the evening dry flies and wet flies fished close to the surface usually pay dividends.

Salmon

The Top Pool is a good place to fish with the salmon fly, especially when the river level is below 0.7m (Corwen gauge). At higher levels wading becomes treacherous and it is difficult to fish from the bank with the fly. Therefore, fishing becomes restricted to spinning from the bank.

Over the years, I have hooked three salmon in this pool on the fly, all from August onwards, but not managed to land any of them. Two of the fish threw the hook while leaping in the air. One salmon took a Sliver Stoats Tail (size 10 double) and the other a Curry’s Red Shrimp (size 12 double); both on a floating line. The third fish took a Silver Sedge while fishing for trout and I just couldn’t get it in the net with the 3lb leader I was using!!!!!

From experience and talking to fellow anglers the sketch below highlights where best to find salmon within this pool.

I mainly fish this pool with the fly from July to September because this is typical when the river level below 0.7m.  Most of this pool is less than 5ft deep; therefore, I normally use either a floating line with a 12ft copolymer tapered leader; or a 7ft sinking polyleader tipped with 4ft of 15lb fluorocarbon when I need to fish a couple of feet down in the water column.

For fly selection I use this simple strategy:

In coloured water a size 10 or higher brightly coloured fly (e.g. Cascade, Park shrimp etc);

Cascade

In clear water use size 10 or smaller drab coloured fly (e.g. Stoats tail, Blue Charm, etc)

Stoats Tail

Rather than spending time agonising over which fly to use, I have found it is more important to focus your attention on locating where the salmon are lying and how best to cover them such that they take you’re offering.

In addition, I’m of the opinion that salmon are either interested in taking or not because the majority of salmon I have caught on the Welsh Dee have been on the first run through the pool. As such, I now tend to fish pools quickly and then move on to the next one with the aim of covering as much of the river as possible.  A side benefit of this strategy is that you get plenty of exercise, which keeps you fit!!!

In the last few years, during the summer months I now prefer flies dressed on single hooks (size 6 to 10) fished on a 10ft 6# reservoir trout rod. My reasoning being that during the summer there are not many salmon in the Welsh Dee and I don’t like carrying extra gear when my focus is on trout and grayling for most of the day. This approach means I only have to carry an extra small fly box containing a few small salmon flies.  Thus, allowing me the opportunity to run through likely lies during the last hour before sunset, which is probably the best time to tempt a salmon.  In addition, it keeps me occupied until nightfall and my final switch to targeting sea trout.

Sea Trout

Until recently, I have not fished for sea trout in the Top Pool after dark, primarily because it is not easy to follow the path back through the wood at night.  However, in the last couple of years I have made the effort and this has produced some success. The following sketch shows were I have caught sea trout to-date.

During the day they tend to lie close to the far bank, along the ledge, in the shadow of the bank-side trees.  They are tempted with small wet flies (e.g. Peter Ross, Black Pennell etc. sizes 10 to 14), fished on a floating line tipped with a slow sinking polyleader and 5ft of 5-6lb fluorocarbon. When the river is running off after a summer spate (0.6m and lower Corwen gauge), try casting the flies square across the river and then strip them back with short pulls after every metre of downstream drift. Takes are violent so be prepared to let them take some line otherwise you will be broken. This technique seems to work well from just above the large tree on the far ban to the rock outcrop

3 of 5 sea trout caught during the day, stripping wet flies on a sink-tip – July 2016 @ 4pm
Flies they fell for – Silver Cormorant, Black Cormorant, Silver March Brown (size 12)

In the evening, as light fades, I usually start by fishing the fast riffle with a team of small wet flies (size 14 -12) on a floating line tipped with an intermediate polyleader and 5ft of 6lb fluorocarbon. This approach usually picks up the odd sea trout to the 2lbs mark; as a by-catch you can get the occasional brownie to a couple of pounds and often a few large grayling. At night fall, I change the tippet to 10lb copolymer and then work my way down through the body of the pool with a slightly large point fly and a smaller fly on the dropper. When I reach point C I get out and the walk down the bank to fish the tail from the safety of the bank. This tail section is treacherous to wade and I don’t fancy getting washed into the rapid section night!!!! There is also no need because the fish lie behind the ledges/rock close to the bank.

3lb sea trout caught on a Silver Sedge (size 12) in the tail, 3 metre from the bank – Aug 2016 @ 9pm

If I don’t get any takes and there are no fish rising on the first run through the pool, I change to a slow sinking polyleader and a slightly heavier flies and run through the pool a second time.  If this doesn’t work then I move down river to another pool; usually Dee Farm.

Directions and Parking

From Llangollen take the A5 to Crown then just after the junction with the B5103 by Berwyn Station take the next right and follow the lane for about 1mile. At the end you will see the top car park on your left.

Walk up the lane from the car park to the style that takes you into the field on your right. Follow the fence down the hill to the river and then walk up river and through the gate that takes you into the wood. The walk though the wood can be difficult, especially when trees have fallen, so take extra care.

[Disclaimer – like most outdoor sports, fishing is not without its hazards. Therefore, you MUST do your own RISK ASSESSMENT before starting to fish; especially if you decide to wade and/or fish at night. In addition, you must follow the club rules when fishing this water.]

Welsh Dee Fishing Information Source & Blog for the Welsh Dee

This website is primarily dedicated to fly fishing for grayling, trout & salmon. It provides helpful & interesting information on fishing the Welsh Dee, augmented with photographs and videos.  In addition, I will be writing about the techniques, tactics, and flies that prove successful on the various beats & pools throughout the year.